Winters in Point La Nim, NB on the frigid shores of the Restigouche River/Bay of Chaleur are filled with possibilities for winter sub-zero fun like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding (aka. sliding as we call it), tobogganing, snowmobiling, ice skating on the outdoor rink, and smelt fishing, which has become a permanent cultural fixation for North shore men, women, and children. Growing up we tried smelt fishing in “shanties”, tarped tee-pee set ups, and exposed to the elements. Each method offered its own experience of the elements. The fishing shanty/hut with an oil lantern for heat, tops the list for comfort and child-friendliness. The tee-pee was a unique idea championed by my father when we were youngsters. In the end, solidly frozen toes led to its brevity as a means of fishing smelts. However, we had caught a fair amount with our Crappy Tire jigging reels.
Smelt fishing, and smelt eating by the way, have become ingrained into our North Shore culture. Smelts become a winter staple on the table and fishing becomes a means of getting out of one large cabin into another to share stories, laughs, and good times. Below you will find a list of materials as well as photos of our February Shanty build.
The Sheddy Build:
We used rough sawn lumber from our wood lot acreage on the farm. Earlier this fall, a local man with a portable saw mill generously sawed up our lumber into varying lengths and dimensions. We decided to use our spruce and cedar lumber for the shanty build. The walls, roof rafters, door and window frames, and floor joists were built using ripped 2″ x 2″ lumber. This was done to minimize the weight of the shanty. To further minimize the weight of the “sheddy” we use luan 4′ x 8′ sheets as siding and covered over the gap seams with 1″ x 4″ boards. We’ll take some time this summer to paint it MacCurdy Farm blue and green with some shamrock and Scottish thistle decals.
Both 2″ x 8″ runners were cut to 9′ length with a 45 degree angle cut to turn them into skids. For the floor we used seven 4’8″ x 2″ x 2″ joists end nailed through the skids. Left over aspenite from a previous job was used to cover the 8′ x 5′ dimensions of the floor. Along the length of the floor for reinforcement we nailed a 2″ x 4″ piece of lumber which also divided the 14″ x 30″ fishing holes into four holes.
For the fishing hole cover (see photo), we used the original cut-outs and connected them using 1 x 5 boards and hinging them to a 1 x 5 board nailed into the floor.
Dimensions of both end walls with 2″ x 2″ studs on centre are 4’8″ length x 6’6″ height. Top plate and bottom plate are 4’8″ while each stud (5x) measures 6’2″. We used ten studs in total for the end wall. Insulate between studs with fiberglass batt insulation.
Dimensions of both side walls with 2″ x 2″ studs on centre are 8′ length by 6’6″ height. Top plate and bottom plate are 8′ in length. We used 13 studs in total for the side walls, not including the two extra king studs for the door opening. Insulate between studs with fiberglass batt insulation.
The door opening measures 5’10” height x 30″ width. 3o” x 2″ x 4″ header at the top of the door frame. The door was custom-made with 2″ x 2″ lumber and covered with 1/4″ luaun siding. In fact, we sided the entire shanty with 1/4″ luaun. It was cheap and light. Attach a door handle and a lock clasp on the outside of the door and a deadbolt barrel latch inside. We chose to have the door open out to leave the space inside the Sheddy uninterrupted.
We installed our custom-made windows on the side wall opposite the door. Windows were constructed with 2″ x 2″ lumber to fit an opening 14″ wide by 28″ high. We installed rectangular hinges to a 1″ x 4″ board on the exterior wall above the window opening. We used some scrap plexiglass from our chicken coop windows project that fit the bill for two windows. We pre-drilled holes before setting the screws in place to secure the plexiglass to the frame. When placing the “sheddy” on the ice, we strategically positioned it facing southwards to soak in all of the day’s sunlight heat. We’re not heating up chicken coops but a bit of sunlight goes a long way.
We constructed rafters from 2″ x 2″ lumber. First we cut our 2″ x 4″ ridgeboard to length (9′) to allow for an overhang on the ends, if necessary. We elevated the ridgeboard on the end walls by 2″ so that the height above the end wall was 6″. Our slope, rise/run, ended up being 6/30. We used that slope 1/5 to make our angled cuts to attach to the ridgeboard and left a 6″ rafter overhang. The carpenter square is a must have tool for any work with a pitched roof. Finally we attached 7/16″ aspenite to the roof, installed 1″ x 4″ fascia boards on the rafter overhang and cut aspenite for the eaves (We didn’t want cold air coming in or wasps nests being built in the summer should we double the sheddy as chicken housing. You just never know!
We determined that a bench on one end wall and open standing space/camping chair space on the other end would suit those who like to stand to fish and those who like to rest their snow beaten legs after a snowshoe out to the ol’ fishing hole while they fish smelts. When installing the bench we cut a piece of aspenite to stretch the length of the end wall, 4’8″, with a 14″ deep seat. We framed the bottom of the bench with 2″ x 2″ lumber to brace the bench to the bottom plate with angled arms. On a test sit, the bench held the weight of two 215 lb plus men.
Some necessities when it comes to smelt fishing include bait (we use pork fat and a can of sardines), rods or lines, a tackle box, nails on the walls to hang your rod and reel, a shelf for odds and ends and your cole man lantern. We chose to hang our Coleman lantern above the fishing hole on one of the rafters. The light gives us some heat and acts as a lure for the fish. Finally, make sure you have an ice chipper and a sieve of some sort to strain out the slush in the fishing hole before you drop your lines.
Finally, I feel this story is worth telling. We were unsure how to best move the “sheddy” onto the ice. Dad had an ingenious idea to strap it onto two toboggans, slide it down the farmhill, across route 134, and down our private beach byroad. We snowshoe packed the trail out to our preset fishing area, cleared a 10′ x 10′ patch of ice, and cut the hole through the 18″ – 20″ thick ice. With a two man team of MacCurdysdales and a MacCurdy bull (Dad aka. Jimmy Mac) behind the “sheddy” we pulled and heaved the fishing hut out to the area. We had our doubts, but as I told my sister’s boyfriend, Jimmy’s ideas, although met with resistance at times, work 99.5% of the time. That being said, I’m not looking forward to hauling it off the ice. Another project successfully completed as we continue to further diversify the farm, even in the thick of winter.
More pictures to follow. MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly stewarded, naturally balanced.